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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Iam doing my first desert trip in late July (29th launch) and I have never had to worry all that much about "cooler management ". 8 days plus travel to put in I guess? Deso with two big coolers and one medium or at least I have them to use? We usually (or have anyway) frozen meals in vacuum bags as well as frozen some water and kinda did the "don't open cooler" but we live where it's cool and so it wasn't hardcore. I've had ice after 5 days but never tried to hard. I'd like to see just how far you guys can take it . Lol! So you desert gurus school us alpine guys on the art a d science of "cooler management "
 

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Others will have more elaborate practices, but mine are:

Chill the cooler first, either in a big fridge/freezer or with a lot of extra ice
Everything is cold or frozen before it goes in the cooler
Use a combination of blocks (for long-term preservation) and cubes (for proximity to things you want rocket cold)
Dry ice is cool but there's a learning curve associated with it -- practice first before counting on it
Open as little as possible (you know that)
Cover with a wet white towel at all times when it's in the sun (evaporative cooling)
Drain about half of the melt water each morning (controversial I know)
 

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I just did a Grand trip. 18 days, and threw away ice when I got home. Do what the outfitters do. The cooler goes into the freezer, pour in 1-2 gallons of water per day, till it’s about half full, put 10 lbs of dry ice on it during the drive down to the launch. I had an Orion 65L. Plus I cut bubble wrap as a top gasket. I could have done 21 days that way, but I started to put lukewarm beers in it.
 

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I have a cheap 150qt Rubbermaid cooler that I got for $100 from Home Depot, not some fancy rotomolded job. Here's my process for a Deso trip in late July with temps in the 90-100* range

Weeks/days before launch: I make solid ice block ahead of time in a rubbermaid/tupperware thing that is almost the exact same width as the cooler. My blocks are 6" high at least for Deso. I only add 1" of water at a time when making these blocks. I have a chest freezer I use for this.
30-36 hours before launch:
The day before we leave (front range of Colo), cut the blocks to fit perfectly in the bottom of the cooler. I then add shaved ice from my freezer around the edges where my blocks aren't a perfect fit. I then add 3" of water to fill up the sides of the 6" blocks. On top of this I put 10# of dry ice on paper. It takes a few hours but the 3" of ice freezes, and then I add more water. A few hours later, the whole bottom 6" of the cooler is solid ice. I then add my frozen meals and beers (24+) I've frozen ahead of time (pre-chill then freeze).
I pack the cooler full of everything that can be frozen with dry ice....(no eggs / veg/ fruit). If there's remaining space I fill it with beers or bagged ice. There's still some dry ice left in the cooler on the day we drive to Sand Wash
24 hours before launch: drive to launch site with a separate cooler for veg/eggs/fruit. Keep these in the separate cooler until launch time.
Launch day: I pull the bags of ice in the big cooler and use that top up my day cooler and share with people who need some, I add the fruits/veg/eggs to the 150. I leave the separate cooler in my truck with any remaining ice and a few beers for takeout. My day cooler now has leftover ice from the bags and some cold beers I've kept in the separate cooler (that stays in the truck).
Float days: cover cooler with wet towel and cover with Paco pad. Open only in the mornings or briefly at dinner to pull food. Use water gun to suck cold water out of big cooler and add to day cooler. Each morning day cooler gets that night's (frozen) food in it to help keep beers/sodas cool.

We did 7 nights and I still had blocks of ice for cocktails on night 7. After day 5 I wasn't even particularly diligent and achieved these results.
 

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If you can’t freeze it…. Don’t open it, or as little as possible while the sun is up. Plan/pack a cooler to not open it for the first few days. Keep your day beers In a different cooler. Keep the cooler wet, towel/pad, And I’m a drainer but only a little bit to keep the soup factor down. There is a lot more to it but with proper thought 8 days of ice in a igloo is possible, roto mold has less of a learning curve….
 

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To add to the above:

Plan what food goes in which cooler and open your coolers sequentially. Have coolers that you don’t even think about opening until day 3,4,5 etc.

Keep them covered all the time.

Anything you can do to boost R-value is helpful. 1/2” foam pad on bottom, designated cooler pad on top.

Minimize contact with anything that has high thermal conductivity. Like aluminum…

To minimize opening, use a smaller cooler to put drinks and snacks for the day in so the big one only gets opened 2-3 times.
 

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For our Deso trip we didn’t have a locker freezer and don’t have a chest freezer so the night before we used cubed ice and filled up the bottom of our Prospector 103 with about 4 inches of ice then added water to fill in all the void spaces. Added dry ice to pre cool and freeze the ice and water slurry in the bottom. placed foam insulation over the ice base and added pre frozen food including one gallon frozen water. traveled to river with remaining dry ice in the cooler to keep everything solid. added fruit and veg day of launch. relied on evaporative cooling during the days. we barely had any ice last day of 5 day/6 night trip. next time will go with 6 inches frozen base and will manage a day cooler better. we also used all three of our coolers throughout the trip rather than using one for the first third, one for middle third and the other for the last third. That would make a huge difference.
 
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Cooler stew, always keep your chicken submersed in melt water so it gets all over everything in your cooler. Do you have any food poisoning stories? You’d be cooler if you did
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I second all said above. If you can’t freeze your main cooler chill it the night before with ice, discard the ice then pack the day you leave. Precook and freeze everything you can. Bring perishable food in separate cooler and pack into main cooler the morning of the launch.

On my only Deso trip in August, I packed a second 94qt marine cooler besides the main 150qt cooler. It had 6-8 1gal jugs frozen and other frozen foods for later in the trip packed as tight as possibe. I place a layer a foam on top then strapped cooler closed. Opened on river day 4, it was actually day 6 (drive took 2 days). Transferred all frosty contents to other coolers and had plenty ice at the takeout. I always use at minimum a wet towel and often have pad over the top also. The empty cooler also comes in handy to pack garbage/cans.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I never messed with dry Ice. So it'll freeze water on its own? So you can use it to re freeze stuff? And on the drive down use it. Should it be isolated from actual food or just ? Haha! I dunno? So with the two or three cooler set up you guys are just using one up (so to speak) for say half the trophy then starting on the next cooler? Or are you doing some kind of transfer items and leave certain items one cooler to the next? And how do I carry all my beer? I hate warm beer lol.
 

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If carrying multiple coolers I try not to open one until well into the trip. I do transfer beverages/lunch into a small day cooler daily. Keep kids out also, nothing like seeing a kid standing with lid fully open in the middle of the day, shopping for what they want to eat.

Freeze your beers they go a long ways. If you are a seltzer fan, they freeze well also. Most trips, over 2 nights I carry frozen beers. just let fully thaw before opening.

Another good thread would be how folks freeze beers. I’ve done multiple ways.
 

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In my post I showed you how to carry cold beer with a cheap cooler. Our other boat on the trip had a Yeti for meals later in the trip. This was my strategy for days 1-4 with a cheap cooler

1. Freeze beers (24+) for use in large cooler and for later in the trip.
2. Add beers from your warm stock to the day cooler (mine's a soft sider that will hold 12+) Use cooler melt water to help get these puppies frosty.
3. Once you're done with your (meals) in the big cooler, nothing wrong with adding beers from it to the day cooler.
4. hatchet out a chunk of block ice in the morning once your meals are done to use for keeping beers in day cooler cold.

Yes I used Dry ice to freeze water in my cooler. It also froze the meals to 'super fucking cold level' , which allowed me to use them as an ice block for my day cooler.

Don't have veggies, fruit, eggs in the cooler with the dry ice on the way to the put-in. They will taste weird and absorb the CO2...can you say "bubbly grapes".

Cheese, deli meat, cream cheese are fine with dry ice in my experience
 

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Turn anything you can into ice. Freeze your food, like folks have mentioned... but I also really like freezing jugs of juice, etc (I drink a bit out of them at home so there's room for the ice to expand in the jugs without rupturing)... they count as ice and then later on in your trip when you're starting to not care as much about ice in the last day or two, you can drink ice cold (or even better... slushy!) juice on a hot day.

Dry ice is pretty neat stuff... just don't let it get near or above anything you don't want super cold (ie veggies... if dry ice is near or above veggies, it'll torch 'em).

Lastly, and this should be self-explanatory but I've seen folks mess it up, make sure anything that enters your cooler during the trip is as cold as possible. So, if you have leftover food after dinner that's all warm... avoid putting that back in the cooler (just eat it all!). I typically have a case or two of beer outside of the cooler when my trip starts (because there's not enough room in the cooler at the start) and if I find that I want to get that beer into the cooler later in the trip to chill down, I absolutely chill the beers as much as possible in the river via a drag bag (or a bucket of water) before I put them into the cooler -- on really hot trips, it's probably not a good idea to even put cool-ish beers into the cooler... but most trips, I can still pull it off.

Just be mentally militant about it! It's kinda fun sometimes. Basically: anything colder than ice that goes into your cooler is harming your cooler.
 

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+1 on pre chilling your cooler, freezing pre cooked meals and beers, only putting cold stuff in the cooler, open only in the cool of the morning and evening, etc.
I measured the inside dimensions of my cooler, and found five 1 gallon jugs on Amazon that fit the interior almost perfectly. I freeze them in my chest cooler a few inches of water at a time so they don't get too distended. I like this method because your ice can be used as drinking water later in the trip. I also try to coordinate with the other folks on the trip. We designate one cooler as latter day frozen stuff, and don't open it for a few days.
I keep a separate small cooler that I restock first thing in the AM with the daily quota of beers and lunch for the day. If that night's dinner is frozen solid, it'll go in the day cooler, too.
Dry ice is cool, but it will freeze anything in the cooler solid. Yogurt, veggies, lunch meat, etc. You can screw yourself if not careful. It's also expensive to line the floor of a big cooler with it. That said, it's pretty awesome to be able to bust out pints of rock hard ice cream on day 4 for a kid's birthday.
 

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Duck tape the seam around the cooler you don't plan to open for a few days. I use a small rug instead of towels on my cooler. Throw life jackets over your cooler. I am not one of those people who run up to camp and set up their tent first. I leave my drybag on my back cooler for as long as I can for added insulation. I use a baby changing pad on my cooler. It is much cheaper than a custom made cooler top.
 
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